Solid Day in the Desert for Blake Koch With a 16th-Place Finish

Stats:
Started: 12th
Finished: 16th
Laps:  199/200
Status: Running
Driver Points: 12th
Owner Points: 16th

Avondale, Az. (March 13, 2016)- Continuing on the NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) “Western Swing,” Blake Koch began the weekend at Phoenix International Raceway posting the fifth, 14th and 10th-fastest times in Friday’s three practice sessions. Continuing the consistent trend, the West Palm Beach, Fla. native beat his previous track-best qualifying effort, with a final round appearance Saturday morning to secure a 12th-place starting spot for the Axalta 200.

With the caution flag waving just one lap into the 200-lap event, the field was bunched back up for another restart attempt on lap 5. Racing hard to gain as much ground as possible, Koch was on the high side of Elliott Sadler’s No. 1 when he got extremely loose and slid up the race track, losing a few positions early on in the run.

Determined to make up lost ground, Koch settled into a rhythm and made his way back up to 17th before he radioed to the crew that his No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection™ Chevrolet Camaro was “starting to get tight” 30 laps into the race. Still running lap times comparable to those within the top-10, the 30-year old driver diced his way through traffic on a mission to catch those in front of him.

With the caution flag waving for the second time on lap 59, Koch came down pit road to the attention of his pit crew where crew chief Chris Rice called for four tires, fuel and both a track bar and air pressure adjustment to try loosen the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection™ Chevrolet Camaro up.

Restarting 17th, Koch maintained that position as he continued to fight an “aero loose” condition that occurred anytime he got to the back bumper of another car. However, Koch relayed that he was “tight” throughout the corners at both ends of the track when in clean air just as the caution flag waved on lap 97, for what would be the final yellow flag period of the race.

Coming down pit road for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment, Koch restarted in 16th-place at the halfway mark of the race. Continuing to be patient, Koch reeled in the No. 42 of Justin Marks to move himself back into the top-15 running order with 75 laps remaining in the Axalta 200.

Battling a Chevrolet Camaro that had swung from loose to tight, Koch was relinquished a lap down to the leaders right before final pit stops occurred, under green, with 30 laps remaining. Coming to the attention of his LeafFilter Gutter Protection™ team on lap 171, Koch received two right side tires and a splash of gas before he was sent back out on his way.

Once green flag pit stops had cycled through, the No. 11 was scored in 16th-place. Needing a few more laps to stalk down the top-15, Koch finished 16th in the Axalta 200, one lap down to eventual race winner Kyle Busch.

Quote:

“I definitely think we had a better car than the results show, but the goal today was to get a finish. We haven’t finished the last two races how we wanted to and today’s run helped make up a bit of points that we lost those last couple races. We’ll learn from this and move on to California.”

Notes:

  • Blake Koch was fifth, 14th and 10th-fastest in all three NXS practice sessions Friday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway.
  • Koch qualified a track-best 12th for Saturday’s Axalta 200, and finished 16th in his 11th start at the one-mile oval.
  • The Kaulig Racing™ driver moved up to the 12th position in the 2016 NXS driver point standings after the fourth race of the season, only 51 points behind leader Daniel Suarez, and within the Chase cutoff point.
  • Kyle Busch won the Axalta 200 at Phoenix International Raceway followed by Erik Jones (second), Daniel Suarez (third), Justin Allgaier (fourth) and Chase Elliott (fifth).
  • Up next: NXS 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Sat., March 19

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